Recording your album is without a doubt the best part of releasing music. The creative process is a joy (that’s why we do it after all), and you get to call a lot of the shots.
At the end of the long process, you have something concrete you can be proud of. Then comes the hard part: putting your baby out into the world.
Not only is this part of the process quite vulnerable (not everyone is going to have positive things to say about your album), but it’s also long, confusing, stressful, and expensive.
To make your life a little easier, I’ve compiled an Indie Album Release Checklist. This list assumes that the album is done and ready to be released. I've kept the categories fairly general so that it will apply to nearly every genre.
But first, if it's your aim to do music professionally, you'll want to check out our free ebook while it's still available:
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Secure Your Brand
There are many angles to securing your artist brand. You need:
- A registered domain name that is easy to remember.
- A trademarked band/artist name.
- Profiles on every social media network – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Google+ – even if you don’t intend to use them all. Why let someone else have it? Create accounts and and hold onto them in case it becomes important.
- The same name on each network – don’t have @AwesomeBandMusic on twitter and @TheAwesomeBandRocks on Instagram – keep it cohesive!
- Create a mailing list. For info on the best mailing list service, see our guide!
Once you have the basics in place, your next step is…
Develop Your Album And Promotion Branding
I don’t usually recommend that artists develop their own branding, but I have seen it done. You just really have to know what you’re doing.
I personally spent $2,000 on a complete brand for my band and it was some of the best money I’ve ever spent. We now occasionally pay for a little update here and there, but we get compliments on the look of our material all the time.
- A logo.
- A set of colors associated with your brand.
- A font associated with your brand.
- New professional promo photos.
- A great bio – don’t write it yourself if you don’t have to. I guarantee it won't be as good as you think it might be.
Promo photos are the first things many people see when they’re interacting with your brand – often before the music. You need to make sure they’re great.
Register Your Songs (Get Paid)
If your song is played on the radio, streamed, or otherwise used commercially you want to get paid for it. Here’s how you make that happen:
- Register with ASCAP or BMI – it doesn’t really matter which one you choose.
- Register with SoundExchange – SoundExchange collects royalties on digital media such as Pandora, satellite radio, internet radio, etc.
- License cover songs – if you have all originals, don’t worry about it. If you’re used samples, or you've recorded a cover, you need to license the song using Harry Fox’s Songfile service.
Whew. It can be a little tedious getting through these steps. But wait! More tedium is on it’s way…
Set Up Digital Distribution & Direct Sales (Get Paid, More!)
I firmly believe that as an indie artist you should eventually be on every single digital streaming or purchasing site available.
You can roll them out strategically (usually streaming first), but eventually you need to be on all of them. You can see how to easily get them on those sites here, as well as the below suggestions.
- CD Baby, Discmakers and Songcast are safe bets for digital distribution, however, many smaller companies will also do a good job.
- Make sure to set up direct-to-fan sales where you receive the most cash – Bandcamp only takes 15% on every sale, CD Baby takes 9%, both are good options.
- Submit your music to Pandora – make sure to submit your very best song. For more information, visit their website.
Set Up Your Website
With your new branding, social media, and links to your digital distribution and direct-to-fan sale system in place, it's time to set up a great website.
Clean, nice looking, and simple is the best way to go. Here’s some advice on setting up a great website:
- Use Squarespace or WordPress – I prefer Squarespace for it’s super easy-to-use interface, but WordPress is more flexible.
- Make sure to feature your music, live video, and social media links right up front.
- Make sure to have an EPK where every single asset is downloadable – this is great for booking gigs or making industry contacts. You EPKs should include music, live video, professional video, press clippings, short and long bios, downloadable promo pics, links to your social media, and potentially even a downloadable tech & hospitality rider.
- Don’t have auto-playing music or video. It’s really annoying.
- Have a mailing list link on each page.
You’ve now got the basics down. However, there may be a few other things to implement, depending on what you want to accomplish with your release.
Consider Getting Professional Feedback on Your Songs
For relatively cheap, you can get a 100 listener report on your song by Audiokite.
This is a great way to figure out which song you should be sending to people in the industry, press, or promoters. It can also help you figure out which song should be your single – or which song is worthy of a music video!
For more information, Passive Promotion does a great review of different crowd-sourced review services.
Book An Album Release Show/Tour
Many artists book album release shows and many also tour following the release. This is not for everyone. Many electronic and hip hop artists do not use this strategy, and many indie artists also choose to wait.
Both strategies are perfectly valid, you just have to know which is right for you.
Whether you’re booking an album release show or a full tour, we have some great guides to help you along.
Run A Publicity Campaign
I have written at length about my experiences with publicists, publicity campaigns, and how you can make the most of them.
If you are serious about this release and have spent a great deal of time and money making it, it’s worth promoting it properly.
A lot goes in to releasing an album. I believe this guide will lead you to a great indie release and set you up for future releases too.
What have you learned from doing an independent release?